Welcome to KADIST San Francisco for the exhibition The Missing Circle. We are delighted to have you join us today and our staff is here to facilitate your visit.

The Missing Circle is the culmination of an eponymous series of programs across Latin America, curated by Magalí Arriola and initiated by KADIST in 2018. This three-year program departed from the shared experience of death and extinction that has traversed Latin America since colonial times and has unfolded in close collaboration with partner institutions, researchers, and artists in the region through informal conversations, seminars, commissions of new works, and exhibitions.

The exhibition at KADIST San Francisco is adapted from its large-scale iterations at the Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín and the Museo Amparo in Puebla. With works by Pável Aguilar, Carlos Amorales, Edgardo Aragón, Jorge Julián Aristizábal, Adriana Bustos, Fredi Casco, Rometti Costales, Aria Dean, Sam Durant, Pierre Huyghe, Cristóbal Lehyt, Jesse Lerner, Alfredo López Morales, Noé Martinez, Cildo Meireles, Eustáquio Neves Juatuba, Nohemí Pérez, Naufus Ramírez Figueroa, and Carla Zaccagnini.
This digital book will be your guide and provide information about the exhibition and the artworks. Click on the + sign on the top right corner of the page to access each section, and enjoy your visit!

Magalí Arriola, curator

“If every human death entails an irrevocable absence, what can we say of this other absence that continues as a sort of abstract presence, like the obstinate denial of the absence we know to be final? That was the missing circle in Dante’s Inferno, and the supposed rulers of my country, among others, have taken upon themselves the task of creating and populating it.”–Julio Cortázar, “Denial of oblivion,” introduction to the 1981 Paris Colloquium against the policy of enforced disappearances in Argentina.[1]

For the anthropologist Michael Taussig, the inscription of Latin American political history into social landscapes has frequently outlined a space of death that has a long and rich culture, “where the social imagination has populated its metamorphosing images of evil and the underworld.”[2] As a consequence of imperial politics and colonial exploitation, the space of death is a heterotopian expanse where terrestrial beings and supernatural creatures live, die and are reborn. It is also where, as suggested by Argentinian writer Julio Cortázar, a “missing circle” in Dante’s inferno prevails, one that was created and populated by our ruling classes.[3]

Adapted from its large-scale iterations at the Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín and the Museo Amparo in Puebla, the exhibition The Missing Circle at KADIST San Francisco departs from the shared experience of death, extinction, and its various manifestations that have permeated Latin America and the Caribbean since colonial times. The figure of the undead has embodied early capitalist slave economies such as the exploitation of the Brazilian gold miners, the Black slave labor that sustained the US cotton plantations, the endlessly toiling Haitian zombies in sugar plantations, and the forced labor of Indigenous people at Colombian rubber plantations or Mexican henequen ranches. Effigies of the desaparecidos (the missing) have incarnated the victims of military dictatorships, guerrillas, and civil wars in Guatemala, Paraguay, Chile, Peru, or Argentina for a large part of the twentieth century. And, more recently, the haunting bodies of the undead have appeared as the lost souls of those fallen to drug wars that countries such as Mexico or Colombia have waged on their own citizens.

Like a fable providing an allegorical approach to the Latin American social landscape, The Missing Circle revisits particular episodes in the region’s political history to explore the role that counted corpses and unaccounted souls play in the world of the living. These latter take part not only as casualties of institutionalized violence and bare life, but also as the emancipating agents at the heart of new political formations. In other words, the dead without bodies and the bodies without life that not only haunt our memories of the past but also linger in our expectations for the future.

By convening historical individuals, fictional characters, tangible facts, and mythical stories, The Missing Circle draws a space in which temporary markers acquire a different morphology, and reveals the connective pathways between facts and places, objects and subjects, witnesses and narrators, and actants and spectators. Yet, rather than aspiring to unearth truth or fabricate fiction, the resulting narrative addresses the politics of interpreting and representing facts in what Taussig refers to as “the social being of truth.”

[1] Julio Cortázar, “Negación del olvido”, introduction to the Paris Colloquium on the policy of forced disappearance of persons, 1981. Click here to read the full speech in Spanish. The Argentinian writer addressed political disappearances during the Paris Colloquium on January 31 and February 1, 1981. He restated his discontent in the face of the political reality of many Central and South American countries, which is appears—he writes—as the “circle [that] missing circle in Dantean Hell,” and from which the rulers of [his] country, among others, took on the sinister task of creating and populating.

[2] Michael Taussig,“Culture of Terror, Space of Death. Roger Casement’s Putumayo Report and the Explanation of Torture,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 26, issue 3 (July 1984) 467–497.

[3] Julio Cortázar, “Negación del olvido”, introduction to the Paris Colloquium on the policy of forced disappearance of persons, 1981.

The films screen at KADIST San Francisco on Saturdays at the top of the hour from 12 to 4 pm (last screening begins at 4pm). The films are also available to view online for the duration of the exhibition here.

Carlos Amorales

La aldea maldita
HD video, black and white, sound
13:00 min

Courtesy the artist and Kurimanzutto, Mexico City

The film La aldea maldita [The Cursed Village] narrates the story of a family of migrants who are lynched as they reach a strange town. In this fantastical village, a puppeteer challenges our pre-existing vision of the world as he manipulates the characters in a kind of shadow play that seems to be activated by musicians and actors. The visual vocabulary that Carlos Amorales (Mexico City, 1970) uses in many of his installations, animations, drawings, sculptures and paintings, comes from his "Liquid Archive", a digital collection of cut out images that the artist extracts from his observation of nature and diverse urban scenes. Among the main symbols that repeat themselves throughout the archive are spider webs, birds, skulls, leafy branches, and pregnant women.

Jesse Lerner

The American Egypt
Digital video (excerpt)
25:39 min

Courtesy the artist

Experimental filmmaker Jesse Lerner focuses on the liberal history of the Yucatán Peninsula (Mexico), which, in addition to having had separatist aspirations, held one of the first socialist governments in the world for a brief period in the early twentieth century. By telling this story using archival images and texts of various origins, Lerner establishes implicit connections between the economic development of the region (originally based on Peonage, a system similar to slavery that allowed for the massive exploitation and export of the fiber of the henequen plant to the United States), and other events in the political history of Latin America that were directly related to the economic interests of North America in the rest of the continent.

Click here to read Lerner’s text “Bodies Without Souls, Souls Without Bodies” commissioned for this digital publication.